200 years ago today, Indiana became the nineteenth state in the union.
I could go on and on about the things I love about Indiana. I am very proud of this state. First and foremost to me, this is where public education began. It's true.
A few years ago, I was visiting Conner Prairie, and the interpreter (the name given to the actors who portray the people living back in the 1800's) was a teacher. This was obviously a retired teacher. I asked her about the education system, telling her that I was a teacher myself. She was very excited to tell me that, in the 1800's, Indiana is a very progressive state in terms of the education system. Then she added, "...and I pray that it always will be." Then she gave me a wink.
If there is one thing I have learned from the history of Indiana, it's that we are a state that is known for a Midwest sense of hospitality and friendliness. I have seen that we are largely a state that is accepting of all people.
I have learned from my family that we have deep roots here in this state, and that those roots have created a visceral sense of identity that is 100% Hoosier. I have learned from my own neighbors, coworkers, and the families of my students that we are a group of people who look out for each other.
When I think of Indiana history, I think of the old commercials at the beginning of Purdue games where the guy would find his old Sousaphone in his attic and see if he could still play the fight song, and yes, the one for IU where the custodian would mop the floor while singing the IU fight song to herself. I think about Cowboy Bob and Sammy Terry and Janie, and Bob Gregory and Barbara Boyd. I think about the 500 and the Monon Bell and the Old Oaken Bucket.
I think about the interesting little things in Indiana; the biggest egg in Mintone, the giant chair outside the furniture store between Franklin and Edinburgh, and the beauty of Turkey Run ("you don't feel like you're in Indiana"--everyone who has ever been there). I think of The Cookie Jar in Waveland and going to "coffee" with my grandpa in Frankfort when I was a kid.
I think of the Purdue Marching Band, fish fries, the New Ross grain elevator, and the once-annual Christmas program at the Presbyterian church in Delphi, Indiana.
That's what Indiana is to me. The story of normal people just looking out for each other. Forget the government parts, because those just distract from the real stories, and the real heart of what makes the Hoosier state such a great place.
Whether you've been here for a long time or a short time, you are a part of something wonderful. You are a part of the persevering state of hope and warmth despite any odds.
Happy Birthday, Indiana, you big, awesome Hoosier State, you!